The Problem of Wineskins
Recently I received an email from a man who believes that no musical instruments should be allowed in church, and that believers may sing only psalms. I did not answer him, as he did not ask me to. His email was simply a lecture. Had he asked me what I thought, my reply would have been along the following lines.
The first thing I would say is that we must all be interested in one thing and one thing only – holding a truly biblical position before the Lord and based on the teaching of Scripture. It is extremely important for us to see what the Bible says both in its didactic statements and in the way it illustrates the truth in the lives of God’s people. In all the really important areas of our lives I believe we can find that the principles set down in Scripture are adequate to answer our questions. They tell us the way we should live.
But there are some areas where the Bible does not give us such a clear indication. Sometimes these areas include such questions as how and why we do what we do when we assemble as believers. Personally I find no mechanical formula for church music in the Bible. But the Bible does make it very plain that when believers come together “in church” it is to be primarily for edification and not for worship (1 Cor. 14:26). In this regard I do not tend to involve myself in questions about “worship” or “praise” styles because it seems clear to me that worship is to be a continuing practice of the Christian. We do not come to church to worship; we come to church as worshippers intent on building each other up. Thus, if we are truly seeking the Lord in this matter of worship, we will have to acknowledge that the Bible teaches that Christians have an obligation to worship God in their daily walk, not just on Sunday.
Another thing to guard against is the idea that the patterns for the assembling together of believers are somehow unclear or, if they are clear, inapplicable to today. Some say, “If the wine is new, why worry about the wineskins? The wine is the important thing.” However, it is imperative to notice that while the Bible indicates that the inward is more important than the outward, the Bible does not allow us to disregard what it says about the new wineskins. We must realize that in these areas of church life God can lead as He wishes and often His leading is very quiet. This is how it has been for my wife and me. Although we feel that the Scripture makes adequately plain which practices please Him and which do not, we do try to keep these matters in perspective. This does not mean that these things are not important to the Body of Christ or that they are unimportant to us. It is just that none of these things has any part in our justification before God, although once we become Christians we are to obey the commands of Christ and His apostles.
The Lord has been speaking to me during my prayer times in the quietness of the farm that it is important to be faithful in the matter of the wineskins and not just the wine. It is not for me, however, to convince any other believer how he or she must think. It is my prayer that the whole church of Christ will seek to know God’s will in all these matters. My advice would be to remember at all times that His arms are around us, and that He will continue to lead us into all truth if we are willing to do His will.
September 8, 2006
David Alan Black is the editor of www.daveblackonline.com.